With current changes occurring throughout the world regarding the coronavirus pandemic, there are many concerns and worries that might be going through our head. One of the big questions we are asking is “what will the world look like when we come out of this?” Here to bring a little light into the subject is international journalist, Natalia Bonilla.
The word “pandemic” is all over the news, all over the conversations with our loved ones and the lingering question mark putting our future plans and dreams on hold.
Yes, the COVID-19 took our country by storm in just a couple of weeks and there’s little that can be said now that resembles any novel advisory.
While the Trump Administration is seeking to boost scientific research, medical production and keep the American economy afloat with trillions in incentives, a deafening echo is making us wonder as a society: “are we alone in this?”
Was this outbreak… preventable? Was this disease…man-made? Was this “silent enemy”… trying to teach us something?
Whichever way we can look at this we will definitely find possible answers:
Mother Earth is healing itself. By late February, NASA released new satellite images showing a decline in pollution levels in China, the world’s most populated country, after close to its second month of coronavirus lockdown. Just this week, the European Space Agency recorded also a decline in nitrogen dioxide in Italy, one of the main nations affected by the virus spread. Its polluted Venice waters also experienced a positive shift, returning to its crystalline origin and welcoming dolphins to its once-flooded by tourist boats canals. A lot can be said about human activity and climate change but if something this moment in time is demonstrating is that the current tourism industry needs to change.
Tourism, Media & Economic Systems are to be… revisited. When China announced the world the first case of this novel coronavirus, commercial airlines and governments began placing travel restrictions. In a measure to contain the spread of the COVID-19, world politicians turned against Xi Jinping’s Administration for lack of transparency and putting in danger several markets. The case against China is still one the US will not back down in making, once the pandemic slows down nationwide. According to several reports including one by The Lancet scientific magazine, Jinping’s government failed to report immediately to the World Health Organization of this new outbreak (first case was identified mid-December but reported to WHO by late December) which could potentially be seen as a violation of International Health Regulations. Meanwhile, China is also making two cases: governments around the world were breaking international law because they allegedly approved travel bans without “scientific principles” and the second and most controversial one, blaming the US for spreading the virus to harm China. While these power dynamics take place between the two superpowers, a bid to repeat the 2008 bailout, a $50 billion dollars to save the US airline industry, an open multi-billion dollar gamble between big pharma companies to be the first one with a vaccine or a cure, a fear mongering media campaign (sponsored by high paying elites) and an under-the-radar oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia are proving the current economic models were not meant to serve the people, much less, save the environment or prioritize health care.
Global and Local Health finally take center stage. Hard quarantine and national lockdown measures can potentially be seen as human rights violations but they have also helped raised awareness on the severity of this pandemic. It is critical for ourselves. It is highlighting us what truly is important: 1) Without health, there is no career, no enjoyment, no pursuit of happiness, no chasing after the “American dream”. 2) Without a good immune system, without a sustainable lifestyle, there is no amount of money that can guard you against a novel virus like this one, that spreads so easily, that hides just in plain sight. 3) Without equal access to healthcare and affordable sustainable/organic/clean food, we are all at the mercy of our resources and for some that may be good, but not all, have the same mindset to share, to wait, to pray, to seek help. 4) Without proper attention to mental and emotional health, no matter how much money the government provides, no matter how much trivial products and services we buy, no matter many spiritual tools you have, violence can take over. We have seen it already, certain groups feeling more secure buying guns than hoarding on food.
Confusing Military Force with Strong Leadership. There is a wider discussion in the international community that the COVID-19 crisis has unveiled a lack of world leadership. This means, each country is closing off and telling others, “deal with it on your own”. The future of the European Union will be huge topic once the pandemic slows down but also the influence by the World Health Organization and the United Nations, whose recommendations and alarming updates were often ignored or dismissed by some of the countries now dealing with a spike in confirmed cases in the developed and the developing world. What are some glimpses of hope? China, Japan, Cuba. Maybe it has to do something with the collectivist nature of their cultures and in the latter, its political and economic system, but one thing is for sure: in spite of the crisis, the governments and its enterprises are lending other countries a helping hand. What can be seen as a diplomatic maneuver to clean public image cannot, in the gesture itself, be dismissed. Chinese electronic company Xiaomi donated tens of thousands of FFP3 face masks to Italy’s government featuring a quote by Roman philosopher Seneca on the shipment: “We are waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden.” Japan also donated medical supplies to China, once a long-time foe, quoting a Chinese poem: “We have different mountains & rivers, but we share the same sun, moon, & sky.” And Cuba offered drug treatments and medical staff to Italy and other countries around the world requesting so to fight this pandemic. The G7 has also called for greater international cooperation amidst tensions, calling for more honesty, empathy and unity rather than just military or financial show of force.
Lastly, where are the women? Let’s practice solidarity. In times of crisis, women assume the role of caretakers, community leaders and in this case, healthcare professionals and workers too. We are at the frontline bearing, what WHO and the UN has called this week, a disproportionate burden in front of men. What we are seeing now is male politicians calling the shots all over the world at every institutional and national level and also, males being among the top researchers as well as patients of this disease. According to the latest press release by UN Women, recent experience of other disease outbreaks, such as the Ebola and Zika, have shown that such outbreaks divert resources away from services that women need, even as their burden of care increases and their paid livelihoods suffer losses.” Depending on the country, women are more or less likely to work in informal, low-paying and higher risk jobs which mean, they may not be always protected, seen or heard by a community, a society or a State. Since the call is out for a gender perspective on any policy regarding the COVID-19 and the post-world it will follow, may we be mindful of their experiences, may we reach out together within our network to ask a simple: “Hey, how are you? Where are you? How are you dealing with this? How can we both help each other?”
Pandemics brings to light who have we become as a society. All the good and bad, all the kindness and all the cracks. All the work that still needs to be done.
May we take this time to acknowledge the big picture, how interconnected we are and be grateful for what we have now, be thankful for who we are now as people, as humans, as Millennial Women.
This is THE opportunity to decide what kind of life do we want to live moving forward and which we compromise to leave others behind.
Note for the Millennial Woman: These are news stories around the world. We would love to know yours. What’s your human experience? What’s happening in your community? What do you need other millennial women in our network to know? Share your story with us below.
Natalia Bonilla is an international journalist, mentor and multimedia producer with more than 10 years of experience in 12 countries. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Puerto Rico, a M.A. in International Relations from the University of York, a Pg.Dp. in Peace and Conflict Journalism from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.